Reopening Our Meetings – Town Hall



We are all looking forward to reopening our regular face to face meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. At the moment it seems we have more questions than answers about when this might be possible and how we should go about it. While we can’t promise you any answers in this town hall, it is our hope that we can help you ask good questions.

Tradition Four states that:

“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups, or A.A. as a whole.”

Your group is responsible to decide when it is right time for you to reopen, keeping mind the wishes of your landlord, as well as local, state, and federal law.

The Oahu Intergroup of Hawaii can’t make this decision for your group. The General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous can’t make this decision for your group. Your group makes this decision.

But Tradition Four also says that our groups should not be autonomous when those decisions might affect other groups or A.A. as a whole. We are asked to consider the effects those decisions might have on others. An example might be a group that decides to meet with more participants than the law allows. If the group then loses its location because of complaints to the landlord, it would certainly affect any other group that asked to meet at that location.

Further, imagine a group being cited publicly and winding up in the news as, “Those Darn A.A.’s Can’t Follow Rules.” Tradition Ten strongly suggests that the “…A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

Admittedly this Tradition is talking about A.A. having an opinion on outside issues, but I think we can reasonably assume that in this case outside opinion of us in a negative light would be an equally unhappy outcome. And certainly, we need to consider Tradition Eleven.

Tradition Eleven states, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.”

It seems to me that part of being attractive is being safe and free of disease. And, truth be told, staying out the news because we were cited for health code violations is probably an excellent example of anonymity. Bad press is not attractive nor, should individuals be noted, anonymous.

Luckily for us, Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t just pose problems. There is a solution. Tradition Two says:

“For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

Those familiar with the practice of a group conscience will also be familiar with the concept of “an informed group conscience.” The pamphlet P-16, The A.A. Group…where it all begins, is a great source of information.

What Is an Informed A.A. Group Conscience?
The group conscience is the collective conscience of the group membership and thus represents substantial unanimity on an issue before definitive action is taken. This is achieved by the
group members through the sharing of full information, individual points of view, and the practice of A.A. principles. To be fully informed requires a willingness to listen to minority opinions with an open mind.”

Our common purpose is the carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous as stated in our Tradition Five. But in order to do that, especially in these times of pandemic, it is important that we do so safely and not endanger the lives or families of those who attend our meetings.

“Because A.A., as such, ought never be organized, as indicated in Tradition Nine, it is individual members and groups who ensure that all members feel as safe as possible in A.A.”

Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare

The Oahu Intergroup of Hawaii is offering this town hall as a way of helping your home group hold an informed group conscience.

Our hope for this town hall is that we can present a number of questions your home group might choose to discuss before reopening. We will also be sharing suggestions that have been collected from a number of intergroups throughout the U.S.

Here’s a list of resources I feel are important for any discussion of reopening our meetings available from Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.

The first three are excellent basic resources for any group conscience, pandemic or not. They give us a common language to begin our discussion. But what is there to discuss? Here’s a list of excellent questions to begin our discussion.

  • Has your home group scheduled a group conscience or business meeting to consider resuming face-to-face meetings?
  • Is your group familiar with the latest CDC, state, and local regulations concerning large group meetings? Where can these regulations be found? How can these regulations be communicated to the group?
  • Has your group considered how its actions and decisions could affect other groups or could affect A.A. as a whole?
  • Will your group’s regular meeting place limit capacity while following government mandates regarding physical distancing? If not, how will your group meet the needs of alcoholics and also avoid controversy?
  • Will your home group consider the use of online or call-in meetings during live, face-to-face meetings and why would this option be considered? If online or call-in meetings are utilized during a live, face-to-face meeting, will this raise issues of anonymity?
  • Concerning COVID-19, should our group be concerned with any legal liability issues? If so, what might these be?
  • Will hospitality service continue? If so, what safety measures could your group adopt?
  • Will your group supply hand sanitizer? If not, how will your group conduct meetings safely?
  • Will your group continue to share literature between members during in-person meetings?
  • If masks are required, will your group supply a mask for those without one? Will the greeter’s role be expanded to offer masks? Will there be a need to create new group service commitments regarding safety? Will a member be asked to leave if they do not wear a mask—And how can this be handled lovingly?
  • How will your group practice Tradition 7? Has your group considered vectors in passing a physical basket? If so, how can the basket be passed safely?
  • How has your group considered following government regulations in light of practicing the Traditions—specifically Traditions Four, Five, Ten, and Eleven?
  • Has your group considered that should a member contract COVID-19 and name your group as a place they’ve visited health officials may need to do contact tracing for everyone at the meeting?

Some of these questions were raised at a recent South East New York Area’s District 618 meeting on reopening meeting and we use them here with their thanks.

We are including a report by that district’s DCM, as well as a much fuller list of questions generated at that meeting below.

We really wish we had a list of answers to those questions. If you find those answers, we really encourage you to share them with us and with A.A. as a whole. Once your group has developed its own informed conscience about safely reopening spaces for your meetings, please consider sending its experience to the Oahu Intergroup through our manager, at as well as the Group Services Desk at GSO through Jeff W., at

We do have a starting point for your answers. Intergroups throughout the A.A. world are hearing from groups and beginning to create lists of shared experience and suggestions. These suggestions were a collaborative effort of Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York Intergroups

And finally, no list would be complete without references to resources available for us to study to make sure we are in compliance with the law. My experience in A.A. leads me to believe that at times we, and I absolutely include myself in this, think A.A. is somehow apart from the rest of our civil life; that’s it is somehow different once we close the door to the A.A. meeting and say the Serenity Prayer. We are not. Here’s a quote from our shared experience on safety:

A.A. and the Law
Common sense and experience suggest that A.A. membership does not grant immunity from local regulations and being at an A.A. meeting does not put anyone beyond the jurisdiction of law enforcement officers. As individuals, A.A. members are also “citizens of the world,” and as citizens we are not above the law.”

Safety and A.A.: Our Common Welfare

But in order for us to be good citizen’s we must know where to find the relevant information. This is especially true when we must abide by public health regulations. We present these links, not as endorsements, but to make it easier to find the information we need to be informed, to make good decisions in our group consciences.

Oahu residents, if you cannot find the information on COVID-19 you are looking for in the City & County of Honolulu information links above, please email or call 768-CITY if you cannot send an email.

It’s a lot to take in. There’s a lot to talk about. We hope we have been of service in providing resources for a fruitful discussion at your next group conscience.

Thank you for letting us be of service.

Town Hall Minutes (Embedded)


Alcoholics Anonymous